Evening activities are a fundamental aspect of Camp Weequahic. We plan a special and unique activity every night for each age division. Our activities are more than just board games and movies; they are creatively organized events that we spend all year planning. The campers anticipate their activities eagerly; each day they run excitedly to the bulletin board to see what their bunk will be doing that night. After talking with some of our campers, we have compiled a list of the top 5 favorite EA’s.
1) The Miss Weequahic Pageant: Miss Weequahic is many campers’ favorite EA. The girls’ bunks have the opportunity to choose a male counselor to enter into the Miss Weequahic Pageant. The girls then spend a few hours preparing their victims’ hair, makeup, and talent for the big show. The boys are always good sports and put on a fantastic show for the audience.
2) MTV Night: Each bunk choreographs a dance to a chosen song for MTV Night. Some bunks have detailed choreographed routines while others prefer improvising on stage. Either way, the dances are always a great hit with the audience and everyone has an amazing time.
3) Chopped Challenge: For Chopped Challenge, our Top Chef kitchen is opened up to our campers for the evening. Each participating bunk is given a few selected ingredients and supplies. Within the time limit, each bunk scrambles to create a masterpiece. The campers are judged on taste, creativity, presentation, and teamwork. Our creative campers always wow the judges with their unique dishes.
4) Girls Night Out: No boys are allowed while the girls enjoy Henna tattoos and hot fudge sundaes. The girls love chatting with their friends and relaxing while they eat the tasty treats. With our detailed stencils and experienced arts and crafts instructor, each tattoo is an intricate work of art.
5) Pizza and Poker: Not to be left out, the boys have created their own evening activity, Pizza and Poker. The boys make miniature pizzas that they enjoy eating while playing an exciting round of poker.
In their book True North, Bill George and Peter Sims challenge readers to examine the qualities and influences that have made them great leaders through a series of motivational chapters complemented by interactive surveys. In the survey that follows the first chapter, readers are asked: “During your early years, which people had the greatest impact on you?” This is a very significant question to anyone who either attended camp as a child or who works at a camp as an adult.
It only takes a single summer to influence a camper for a lifetime, but the majority of campers attend summer camp for seven summers or more, which exponentially increases the chances of camp counselors having a lasting impact on their lives. Add the community environment of camp in which campers and staff live together 24 hours a day, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine that each camper’s life is not greatly impacted by at least one member of the camp staff. Such a conclusion is evident by the amount of former campers who state the influence of former staff members as one of the primary reasons they chose to return to camp as camp counselors themselves.
George and Sims challenge readers to “discern passion through life experience.” Such an intense task puts the role of camp counselors into a newperspective. Not only do counselors have the ability to greatly impact a child’s life, but to inspire passion in them through the experiences they provide at camp. This is an interesting concept because it is not one about which most camp staff tend to reflect throughout the summer. Camp is a temporary environment that is structured with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Combine this with the fast pace of camp, thinking tends to steer in the opposite direction. Yet, many campers –and even counselors– are so influenced by their camp experiences that they take away a passion for camp as well as the traditions and values they are taught there.
When examined from such a perspective, the role of camp counselors becomes so much more than a summer job, whether a staff member spends one summer or many summers at camp. When counselors pack their bags each summer and head off to camp, they are taking on the tremendous responsibility of inspiring children to become so deeply invested in the camp experience. It’s neither a small nor insignificant challenge. Yet the hurdles of living up to such high expectations is exactly what draws so many camp counselors to their summer camp roles each summer—and what makes them return in subsequent summers. In this regard, the campers have as much influence and inspire as much passion in the counselors as the counselors do to them. The two roles are interdependent.
It’s easy to go through one’s daily life without slowing enough to properly contemplate the potential influence each of us has over others. But when the concept of influence is examined through the perspective of camp, it’s very easy to see how little time is needed to influence someone for a lifetime.
Our campers are having a safe and fun summer thanks to all our staff but especially to our Division Heads. Our DH’s are the cream of the crop; they are very experienced with kids and are well respected in their communities. Alicia Willis is no exception and returned to Camp Weequahic this year for her sixth summer with us. Five summers ago, she was a counselor for Jinter girls and a gymnastics coach at Camp Weequahic. Her energy, work ethic, and ability to connect with all the campers make her well known and beloved by everyone at Camp Weequahic. We decided to ask Alicia a few questions to see what makes her time at Camp Weequahic so special.
Camp Weequahic: Hi Alicia. We’ve been lucky to have you with us for six years. We’d love to ask you a few questions about your time at Camp Weequahic. Tell us a little about your background.
Alicia: I am from Canada, born near the American border in the town of Sarnia, Ontario. I recently graduated with a Masters of Social Work. I have two siblings, one older brother and a younger sister. We are extremely close. In my free time I like to walk down to the beach with a good book or watch a movie with the family.
Camp Weequahic: What is your experience working with children?
Alicia: I have worked with children in multiple settings including my church, school, and other community centers in my neighborhood. I have also worked at Camp Weequahic for 6 summers in many roles including bunk counselor for 4 years and coaching gymnastics. I was a division head for Junior girls last summer. I’m excited to work with the Jinters this summer!
Camp Weequahic: We have loved having you for six summers. You have helped make Camp Weequahic the place it is today. What does camp mean to you?
Alicia: It is hard to put into words what Weequahic means to me. Camp is a place where unlikely friendships become strong life long bonds. Weequahic is a place where people can be their true self and all personalities are welcomed. It has quickly become my home for the months of June, July, and August. My home away from home.
Camp Weequahic: Camp is definitely a place to make amazing memories. We have countless examples of lifelong friendships formed at Camp Weequahic, all possible because of staff members like you. What are some of your goals for the summer?
Alicia: I want to be a positive support for the counselors and campers to ensure that the summer will be memorable for all. I am really excited for the new challenge spending time with 5th and 6th grade girls. I started as a counselor for this division, and I am excited to be back with this age group.
Camp Weequahic: We are so excited to have you back with this group. We know you’re doing an amazing job. What is your favorite camp activity?
Alicia: Gymnastics, of course! My first 4 years at camp I was a gymnastics coach and loved every minute of being in the gym. I believe it is the best place to be at camp. If ever someone wants to learn how to fly, the gym is the place to start.
Camp Weequahic. Many of our campers love gymnastics, the gym is always full of campers learning new tricks and skills. Lastly, tell us a fun fact about you.
Alicia: My first language is English, but when I was younger, I learned how to read in French before I could read in English.
Camp Weequahic: Oh wow, that’s really interesting. We love learning the different backgrounds of our staff and campers. Thanks Alicia for talking with us today! We’re excited to see what this summer has in store for us!
Ideally, every day at camp is sunny and warm. Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t always prescribe to human ideals and, although not often, occasionally the skies are a bit more gray than blue and the weather a bit more wet than dry. Although such conditions are “ideal” they certainly don’t bring the fun and activities to a halt. Quite the contrary, those rare thunderstorms are an opportunity at camp to allow campers to enjoy special activities that are reserved for such days rather than a regular part of the daily camp program.
The Camp Weequahic campus has plenty of multi-purpose indoor space that can accommodate small as well as large groups of campers. Despite the gray skies, the mood is decidedly sunny indoors as campers take advantage of the extra time they have to catch up with bunk/cabin mates. Rain also slows the pace and gives campers time to reflect on their time at camp thus far. Many also use the time to write the letters home or catch up on reading.
It may be a stretch to claim that the weather outside is perfect every single day at camp, but regardless of the weather, the mood is always sunny.
A fun summer at Camp Weequahic is only possible because of hard working staff members like Erica Linnell, our dance specialist. Dance is not her only interest; she will be attending medical school this August. We asked Erica to fill out a profile for our readers to show an inside scoop on the background of our talented employees.
Name: Erica Linnell
Role at camp: Dance specialist
Years at camp: 3rd year
Tell us a little about your background.
I graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in neuroscience in 2013, and I will be starting medical school at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson this August. I was on the dance team at Vanderbilt, and I was also on a dance competition team for 10 years growing up.
What do you get out of working with children?
Working with children at camp has given me the opportunity to develop better leadership skills and mature as a person. It is a challenging and rewarding experience in that it allows me to really make a difference in the lives of children and help them grow over the course of the summer.
What does camp mean to you?
Camp means family, friendship, community, and development. Camp Weequahic is especially unique in that everyone from the youngest six-seven year old campers to the camp directors becomes a close family where everyone is accepted. We all have the chance to learn something new from each other and grow together as a community.
What are some of your goals for the summer?
This summer I hope to make a difference in the lives of kids and to continue to develop as a leader and caretaker. My goal is to make this one of the best and most fun summers yet for the campers and staff at Camp Weequahic.
Favorite camp activity: Tubing and Ropes Course (other than dance!)
Tell us a Fun Fact about you:
I love to travel and experience new places, especially historical sites. I have traveled to places such as Indonesia, Europe, Central America, Africa, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Alaska. My favorite vacation was a safari in Tanzania!
A recent blog shared some of the most popular counselor ‘I never thought I would…’ thoughts. Counselors aren’t the only ones from whom this phrase is commonly heard as the introduction of wonder throughout the summer. It’s heard just as often from campers. Here are some of the most popular perspectives of camper exclamations that begin with, ‘I never thought I would…’
Learn to play the guitar
I’ve never played an instrument before in my life! But my camp’s guitar instructor is amazing. He really loves music and he knows how to teach us chords in a way that is really easy to remember. Sometimes I wish I could spend all day at guitar. But then I think of all of the other stuff that I would miss. Instead, I asked my parents if I can take guitar lessons when I get home in the last letter I wrote to them.
FINALLY get my back handspring!
I’ve been working on my back handspring at camp since last summer. This year, I finally got it! I started a couple of summers ago on the tumbling track with my bunk counselor, who was also a Gymnastics specialist. She knew one of my goals was to learn how to do a back handspring, so she worked with me on the tumbling track, which is a really long trampoline. By the end of the summer, I could do a back handspring pretty well on the tumbling track, but I couldn’t do one on the floor without being spotted. I don’t take gymnastics during the winter, so this summer, when our camp’s gymnastics coach asked me if I was ready to learn how to do a back handspring on the floor, I was nervous. We did a couple on the tumbling track, then he/she spotted me while I did them on a mat. By the end of my next gymnastics activity period, I was doing back handsprings on the floor—by MYSELF! The best part of all is the camp photographer got a picture of it. I can’t wait until my mom sees it!
Become friends with my bunk mates so quickly
This is my first summer at camp, and I was SO nervous because I didn’t know anyone. I met my new bunk mates as soon as I got off the bus. It felt like we already knew each other. We’re already BFFs. We do EVERYTHING together! Our counselors taught us how to make friendship bracelets. Then we all made one and traded them with each other.
Swim in a lake
Before coming to camp, I’d only swam in pools. I was super nervous about swimming in the lake, especially since we had to take a swim test in it. I was so scared to jump in the first time. Then my friends and counselors convinced me to get in. The lake at camp is really just like a giant swimming pool. It was especially fun to jump off the water trampoline while holding hands with my camp friends for the first time after passing my swim test.
Make my own pasta
I love spaghetti. When I found out we were making our own pasta in Cooking, I was SO excited! We had to roll the dough a lot, but it was so much fun to see how pasta is made. Fresh pasta is so much better than the pasta you get in a box. I’m going to ask my parents if I can make homemade pasta when I get home after camp.
Be in a show
I’ve always wanted to be in one of my school plays, but have never tried out because I didn’t know if I could get up in front of lots of people. After being in my camp show this summer, I’m totally going to try out for one of the school plays next year. Being in the camp show was so much fun! It was a lot of work. We had to practice a lot. But my counselors worked with me every day to help me memorize my lines. When it was finally time to perform my part in front of the whole camp, I was ready and so excited to get on stage and show everyone what I could do that I didn’t even think about being nervous!
Score a soccer goal
I’ve been trying and trying and trying to score a soccer goal ever since I made my club team at home. This year, I told my soccer instructors at camp that I wanted to be able to tell my club coach that I’d scored a goal when the fall season starts. They gave me lots of tips during our instructional periods. I got to play forward on my division’s team, and I scored the first goal of my first intercamp game!
Act so crazy on purpose
At school, I’m really conscious about how excited I get about things. I’m always wondering what my classmates will think. Camp is completely different! At camp, it’s so easy to just go crazy because all of my camp friends do too. I love being able to be myself without wondering what all of my friends are thinking.
One of best things about camp is all of the unique experiences you have throughout the summer. Here at Weequahic, mealtime is no different. You would not be hard pressed to find our campers and staff singing in unison to some of their favorite songs, dancing in their seats, or dressed in silly costumes. Special themed dinners are also a common occurrence throughout the summer, including Halloween night, Celebrity night & Italian night. Last night we kicked off our special themed dinners with twin night. There were twins, triplets, quadruplets, and even entire bunks, that came dressed alike. It is a fun way for us to come together, as a community, and celebrate. I mean where else can you enjoy a meal with your best friends while singing at the top of your lungs and dressed in ridiculous costumes? Meals are more than just that though. Take a glance into our dining hall and you will get a look into our culture here; the spirit of togetherness and inclusion, the value of a positive attitude, and the importance of not taking yourself too seriously. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?
It’s interesting how many times throughout the summer counselors are overheard beginning a sentence with the phrase ‘I never thought I would…’ Working at sleepaway camp is truly a collection of ‘I never thought I would…’ moments. All too often, those are also the remarks that speak for camp itself, because they’re epiphanies from the staff members themselves. Although the “I never thought I would…’ comments are as varied as the counselors, there are a few that consistently come up. From the mouths of the staff members themselves, ‘I never thought I would…’
Make so many new friends
Sure, I came to camp expecting to meet a few new people. But I’ve made dozens of friends this summer from all over the world. I feel closer to some of them than I do to people I’ve known for years. I never imagined that I could grow so close to someone in just a few weeks. I’ve wanted to travel abroad for years, but have been scared of going places where I didn’t know the language or the people. Now I can’t wait to go knowing that my new camp friends are going to be there waiting for me!
Be so enthusiastic about little things
One of the most awesome things about working at summer camp is that even the smallest of details are a big deal. The campers getexcited and I can’t help but feel it too. Going to our favorite activity during the day; getting ready for an evening activity; walking into a meal and seeing that it’s my favorite; telling silly knock-knock jokes in our cabin at night; and, in particular, those moments when I really connect with my campers.
Like working so hard
Camp is hard work! I start early in the morning and end late at night. It’s TOTALLY worth it though! I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Sometimes I forget that this is a job and I’m getting paid. So much happens in one day of camp. At night, I lay in bed and try to remember everything that happened during the day just because I don’t want to forget. I’ve started keeping a journal of my days at camp. This winter, when it’s cold outside and I’m missing camp, I’m going to read it. I’m so glad I decided to work at camp instead of accept an internship. This is SO much better than an office! Now I know I want to spend the rest of my life working with kids.
Talk a camper through something difficult
There are a lot of activities at camp and some of them require courage—especially if you’re a kid. I can’t imagine having the guts to maneuver a ropes course thirty feet in the air when I was ten. I really admire so many of my campers for trying brave and adventurous activities. The best part is being able to give the ones who are a little scared that extra push that they need to take on the adventure. There is nothing more gratifying than a smile and a high-five from a camper who just did something they thought they never could and knowing that I helped them do it.
Live so much in the moment
At camp, it’s simultaneously easy and impossible to forget about how short my time here really is.Every day just flies by, which is also reminder that the end of camp is one day closer. I find myself really wishing that I could slow down time, and I’ve started making an extra effort every day to savor each and every moment of camp. Doing so has made me very conscious of how much time I spend in my everyday life planning and thinking ahead. It’s really nice to keep things in the now. I hope to apply my new focus on living in the moment when I return home at the end of the summer, and stop spending so much time thinking about tomorrow.
Become so attached to my campers
I never imagined that I could become so close to a group of kids. I came to camp to be their leader. But it’s so much more than that. It’s impossible not to be attached after spending so much time with them at activities, at meals, in the cabin and getting to know them one-on-one. It’s blows my mind to think that I’ve become so attuned to their individual personalities in such a short amount of time. The summer isn’t even over, and I already know that I’m going to miss them.
Even though many campers anticipate sports and outdoor activities at Camp Weequahic, The Woodshop has become a very popular place at camp. Our woodshop is full of tools that enable our campers to build creative masterpieces, but one of the main reasons woodworking is so popular here is our talented and enthusiastic staff, including James H. We thought you’d like to know more about this great CW team member!
Camp Weequahic: Hi James, we’re so glad to talk to you today. You’ve done great work with us and we’d love to learn more about you and how you help make Camp Weequahic awesome. Please tell us a little about yourself.
James: I come from a small community back in Wales where I have lived all my life. I have two sisters that are older than me and I have always had a passion for sports (soccer and rugby) and teaching and leading my peers. I’m lucky to be able to pursue my profession, carpentry, while doing everything else I love at CW.
Camp Weequahic: Camp Weequahic is a fantastic place to integrate those interests. You seem to love helping kids. What other experiences have you had working with kids before your time at Camp Weequahic?
James: Since I was 16 I have been coaching social and fitness to a local under 9’s soccer team in my community. Plus when I was in School I used to teach woodworking to younger kids. Also, when I was at camp last year, working with our campers was a great joy.
Camp Weequahic: The campers definitely connect well with you. What does it mean to you to work at camp?
James: Camp means everything to me, for the friendships, the experience, but most of all for the FAMILY we create by the end of the summer. It’s amazing how everybody feels at home here in such a short period of time; that’s what camp means to me.
Camp Weequahic: Camp is a great time to make connections with others and grow individually. What are some of your goals for the summer?
James: Some of my goals would definitely be to step up and be more of a leader, to help my DH out with activities. Also to be sure I am a role model to the kids and to make sure that woodworking will be one of the ‘’HOT-SPOTS’’ at camp!
Camp Weequahic: Those are admirable goals and I’m sure this year will be one of our best summers yet. What is your favorite camp activity?
James: WOODSHOP! Camp has many different activities that I thoroughly enjoy, so I am going to say that I enjoy nearly everything.
Camp Weequahic: Lastly, tell us a fun fact about you.
James: One fun fact about me would have to be that I am a people’s person. I can get along and introduce myself to anyone. It is definitely one of my strong points.
Camp Weequahic: Thanks so much James, and we’re thrilled you’re back with us for another summer!